Kraft Dinner to remove synthetic colours from macaroni and cheese

Kraft says it will remove all artificial preservatives or synthetic colours in its iconic macaroni and cheese meal by the end of next year.

Company says original version of its ubiquitous product will contain no synthetic colours by end of 2016

Kraft Dinner won't contain any synthetic colours by the end of 2016, the company says. (The Canadian Press)

Kraft says it will remove all artificial preservatives or synthetic colours in its iconic macaroni and cheese meal by the end of next year.

The company tells fans that  "Kraft Dinner" — as the product is known to many Canadians — will taste the same. 

But will it have that same recognizable bright orange look? 

"All of the ingredients must work together to deliver the distinctive taste, appearance and texture consumers expect and love from Kraft Dinner," spokeswoman Kathy Murphy said in an email to CBC News. "Our fans have made it clear they won't settle for anything less and neither will we."

The company and its iconic product had been the subject of a recent campaign, by influential food blogger Vani Hari and others, to remove two types of food  dyes — yellow number five and yellow number six — from its products.

Healthy branding

Those two dyes, known collectively by their scientific name Tartrazine in Europe and elsewhere, have already been removed from Kraft's macaroni and cheese in Europe

It's not the first time the company has tinkered with its North American recipe in recent years to make "KD" healthier.

In 2014, the company launched a version that reduced saturated fat by 25 per cent and lowered the sodium content by 100 mg per serving.

One expert on food policy says the move is more about branding than a fundamental change.

"Kraft is moving in a direction where consumers are already at," says Sylvain Charlebois, a professor in food distribution and policy at the University of Guelph in Ontario. 

Charlebois says Kraft's strategy is to try to "naturalize" a product that, while popular, had become synonymous with artificiality.

"What's striking is how artificial the powder is," he said. "It was a subject for many consumers.

"It made you wonder whether that thing actually glowed in the dark."